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Monday, July 28, 2008


by Steve Hellyard Swartz

Tears flow a finger is cut a
burn on her cheeks, in halfmoons, below each eye
In my car my daughter, my mother-in-law, and I
Lookie there, will you?
Two black birds going at it, hammer and tong, in the blue mid-air
Lookie there -
The speeding green of everything I’ve ever seen
The Writer’s Almanac on a Friday, the Fourth of July
The thermos of cold coffee
A yellow and deep bruised nectarine
A piece of cheese sweating the last of its hole-y cheer
Are we there? Are we there?
A few slices of rye
My daughter and I singing along to the Rolling Stones on CD
Just inside the New York border, a dog on a red, white, and blue leash
My mother-in-law saying, in Russian,
One summer I walked and walked in the mountains of Kafkhazia
The pea soup fog as we rise higher into the Berkshires
Are we there? Are we there?
The almost silent shuffling of cards in the backseat
My daughter asking something in Russian
My mother-in-law answering quietly
The dog on a leash, a memory
The birds, going for the eye
The cuts, the burns, the tears
Not knowing, was the dog brought inside?
Not knowing, which bird won?
Not knowing, for ten minutes,
In the pea soup fog above Williamstown
What will it be like, when we get out of this – when we get down
Which we will, we will of course we will
I would not take my daughter to a parade on the Fourth of July and have something happen
I wouldn’t
I couldn’t, not with the humbly wrapped rye, the pinched gaiety of no one’s nectarine, the comment about a hike one summer in a faraway land, the Dunkin’ Donut I hold in my hand
Not out of the fog
I ask my daughter what she asked my mother-in-law, in a voice barely above a whisper, in her little girl Russian
At first my daughter answers -
Then, she adds -

Steve Hellyard Swartz's poetry has appeared in New Verse News, Best Poem, The Kennesaw Review, and switched-on gutenberg. An Honorable Mention in the 2007 and 2008 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards, Swartz's poetry will soon appear in The Paterson Review and The Southern Indiana Review. In 1990, his film Never Leave Nevada opened in Dramatic Competition at the U.S. Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.